Observations: Oliver Irving gets by with a little help from his friends

By Nancy Groves
Monday 14 October 2013 03:18

It's night-time in Leicester Square and despite torrential rain, the queue for the Prince Charles Cinema stretches out of the door and right around the block. Screening tonight? How to Be, a tiny British indie movie made for just £250,000 by the first-time, 28-year old writer-director Oliver Irving.

The story of Art, a disaffected twentysomething muso who splits up with his girlfriend and moves back home with a live-in self-help guru, Irving's film could be just another tale of middle-class malaise. Only this one happens to star the man of the moment, Robert Pattinson.

Filmed in early 2007, after Pattinson's Harry Potter debut but before the teen-vampire trilogy Twilight, the movie also features comedian Jeremy Hardy and American actress Rebecca Pidgeon, wife of David Mamet. At tonight's sell-out screening, though it's clear who people are here to see. Even the appearance of Pattinson's name in the opening credits is enough to prompt giggling whoops.

The film might not have starred Pattinson at all. Casting took well over a year, with a range of bright young things attached to the project, including Simon Amstell. Despite support for his script from Mamet and Alan Rickman, Irving had all but despaired of finding his Art. "And then we got Rob," he marvels. "He understood what we wanted to achieve, he was musical and had completely the right look. To find all those elements was incredible: the final piece in the puzzle."

How to Be premiered at Slamdance in 2008 where it won the Grand Jury's Honourable Mention. By the time Twilight was released at the end of 2008, it had featured at another 18 festivals and recouped all its costs thanks to special fan screenings and soundtrack sales.

Yet to make official selection at a British festival, Monday saw the release of the UK DVD. Irving's film is certainly offbeat, though perhaps not always in the way he means it to be. But as its tagline points out: "Sometimes we all need a little help."


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